As a first step in my journey to being a writer I joined the South Jersey Writers’ Group (SJWG) at the end of 2015. It is an amazing organization, run by outstanding leadership. The members are friendly and helpful, and everyone I have ever interacted with has been incredibly supportive. However, there were times when I would feel intimidated by the individuals I spoke to. Most of the members I have met always knew they were going to be writers. Many have already made careers of it. They have been writing for years while I just decided to pursue writing seven months ago. It was all my own insecurities. In truth I didn’t see myself as a writer. A scientist or researcher, definitely, but not a writer.
When the SJWG began promoting the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference, I was unsure about going. This was an event for real writers. I started trying to convince myself not to go. I am just starting out; maybe when I have a novel written, I will go. Will I get enough out of it to warrant the cost of going? I am not even sure I am a writer. What right do I have to go? Regardless of my insecurities about writing, I have never wondered about my intelligence, and I knew when a bunch of smart, successful people tell you to do something you should listen. I am profoundly grateful that I did. The experience was a revelation for not only my work but myself as well.
As I went through the workshops the first day, I came to realize although I knew the events that happened in my novel, I didn’t truly understand what my novel was about. It wasn’t any one moment or any single workshop that helped me solve this newly realized problem. It was a slow process over the course of all the workshops that built and added to my knowledge and understanding. On the last day I finally realized the true goal of my main character and the change she will undergo in the course of the story. Now I understand my novel with vivid clarity thanks to the lessons I learned during the conference.
There were so many moments and gems of wisdom throughout the weekend. Courtney Bambrick’s explained grammar is like hygiene, when it’s bad it will drive away your audience. K.M. Walton broke down what a query letter is, how to write one, and where to find amazing resources to help in the query process. Kathryn Craft provided amazing insight into how to show emotion in your writing instead of telling your readers what your characters are feeling. Every speaker and workshop leader provided invaluable information, and it was a joy to learn from them.
The speakers and attendees also provided insight into the passion it takes to be a writer. It was amazing being surrounded by writers, both published and aspiring. The lessons I learned through these conversations allowed me to hone the concept of my novel, and also allowed me to see myself with more clarity. Even though I may have just begun the first teetering steps on my journey, I am a writer.
To the people I met, the friends I made, and the amazing staff and faculty of the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference, you have my heartfelt and humble thanks.
Main Image: Coffee Creative by Lia Leslie
Coffee Shop Work by StartupStockPhotos
I am a Writer by Fathromi Ramdlon